Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Title: Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Katherine Tegen via Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Australia

A bitter-sweet, coming-of-age novel that's perfect for fans of John Green and Stephen Chbosky.

When he's sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over.
But when he meets Sadie and her friends - a group of eccentric troublemakers - he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn't have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.

Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.
Review by Nara

There's a difference between being dead and dying. We're all dying. Some of us die for ninety years, and some of us die for nineteen. But each morning everyone on this planet wakes up one day closer to their death. Everyone. So living and dying are actually different words for the same thing, if you think about it.
Books about medical conditions are a bit of a double edged sword for me. When well executed, you can get some truly emotive well developed stories. But my medical background also means that I get extremely twitchy when authors get things wrong, ranging from mildly annoyed to completely disgusted.

In terms of Extraordinary Means, I can't say that all the medical side of things was correct, because there were a few sections that I was twitching at. To be frank though, the average person probably wouldn't notice that there's anything wrong. It was well researched enough that it was realistic, and that's about what I expected, really. There are hardly any books that get everything right anyway. If you're interested, by the way, from what I remember, the information about tuberculosis was correct on the whole (although the TDR-TB Schneider writes about is a fictional strain), but there were just some things in other aspects that were a bit off. To be honest, I can't actually remember what they were (and would have to read the book again to pick them up), but I remember sighing a few times while reading.

There's something undeniably John Green-ish about Robyn Schneider's writing. It's something I felt in The Beginning of Everything and it's something I felt again in Extraordinary Means. Schneider's first book seemed a little modelled after Paper Towns, and this book is something of a fusion of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. The stories aren't really that similar, but the writing style and type of humour certainly are. This wasn't something that affected my enjoyment of the books, and I doubt that it would affect too many others out there.

Because of the John Green comparisons, and because of the simple fact that this book was about an incurable disease, though, I couldn't help but be prepared for some sort of death. It was a bit like Game of Thrones: no character was safe. In the end, the death/s turned out to be the quite predictable sort in terms of who the character/s were, but the circumstances were certainly not something I expected- particularly in terms of the brutality level. It was sort of like I had feels in my head, but not in my heart, if that makes sense.

The characters are wonderfully diverse and well developed. We have Lane, who's a high achiever who basically did nothing but study until he was diagnosed with TB and sent to Latham, a quarantine boarding "school" for sufferers of TB. Then we have Sadie, who's the one who got sent to Latham early on and, while a bit of a rebel, doesn't quite know what to think about living outside of Latham. Nick is Sadie's sidekick in all rebellious things, and despite sometimes being a slight dick, is pretty hilarious overall. Marina is...not quite as memorable, to be honest. Probably because she doesn't appear as much as the others. And I'm struggling to describe Charlie, because he's such a complex character (not that the others aren't complex, but he's a whole new level of complex), and because all the defining moments I can think of for him are possible or definite spoilers. Basically all you need to know is that the characters are remarkably interesting and the various relationships between them (romance or otherwise) are some of the best in contemporary YA.

I probably could go on with this review, but it's getting too long, so some quick points
- hate to love relatively slow burn romance which wasn't that slow, but that's fine considering the fact that the characters were in a situation where they could die any day
- plot wasn't really that shocking, but was certainly engaging and there was always that overhanging "will they be cured"
- the UK/Aus cover. So much better.

Well anyway, in summary:
This book was simply...extraordinary.
I had to do it.
Seriously though, it was pretty good.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5